Context: Suicide attempts constitute a major risk factor for completed suicide, yet few interventions specifically designed to prevent suicide attempts have been evaluated.
Objective: To determine the effectiveness of a 10-session cognitive therapy intervention designed to prevent repeat suicide attempts in adults who recently attempted suicide.
Design, setting, and participants: Randomized controlled trial of adults (N = 120) who attempted suicide and were evaluated at a hospital emergency department within 48 hours of the attempt. Potential participants (N = 350) were consecutively recruited from October 1999 to September 2002; 66 refused to participate and 164 were ineligible. Participants were followed up for 18 months.
Intervention: Cognitive therapy or enhanced usual care with tracking and referral services.
Main outcome measures: Incidence of repeat suicide attempts and number of days until a repeat suicide attempt. Suicide ideation (dichotomized), hopelessness, and depression severity at 1, 3, 6, 12, and 18 months.
Results: From baseline to the 18-month assessment, 13 participants (24.1%) in the cognitive therapy group and 23 participants (41.6%) in the usual care group made at least 1 subsequent suicide attempt (asymptotic z score, 1.97; P = .049). Using the Kaplan-Meier method, the estimated 18-month reattempt-free probability in the cognitive therapy group was 0.76 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.62-0.85) and in the usual care group was 0.58 (95% CI, 0.44-0.70). Participants in the cognitive therapy group had a significantly lower reattempt rate (Wald chi2(1) = 3.9; P = .049) and were 50% less likely to reattempt suicide than participants in the usual care group (hazard ratio, 0.51; 95% CI, 0.26-0.997). The severity of self-reported depression was significantly lower for the cognitive therapy group than for the usual care group at 6 months (P= .02), 12 months (P = .009), and 18 months (P = .046). The cognitive therapy group reported significantly less hopelessness than the usual care group at 6 months (P = .045). There were no significant differences between groups based on rates of suicide ideation at any assessment point.
Conclusion: Cognitive therapy was effective in preventing suicide attempts for adults who recently attempted suicide.